Michael Steele Elected Chairman of the RNC; Black People Now Rule America.

Apparently, the RNC isn’t as shortsighted as I thought.  This afternoon former Maryland Lt. Gov Michael Steele was elected chairman of the Republican National Committee (and as such, official leader of the Republican Party) after several rounds of voting.  This is doubly significant: not only is Steele the first African-American to hold the position, but we are now at a moment where both of the nation’s major parties are led by an African-American.  It’s pretty remarkable.

That said, if Republicans believe that this now means that African-Americans are going to stumble over themselves to vote for the GOP, then they’re in for a distinctly unpleasant surprise.  Decades of relying on the Southern Strategy and demonizing African-Americans have left the GOP with very little – if any –  credibility in the black community.  Steele has his work more than cut out for him.  And not just on the outreach front; the GOP is far behind the Democratic Party in adopting internet technologies, and using them effectively.  In addition to expanding the GOP’s base to minorities, Steele has to begin the long, difficult task of transforming the GOP into a party that can compete in the 21st century.  The Republican Party lost a lot of support in suburbs and among young professionals, largely because the party is (correctly) perceived as being hostile to science, and technological change.  If the GOP wants to be a legitimate competitor – in places like Virginia, as well as New York or Massachusetts – then it’s going to have follow the Democrats’ lead, and embrace the pursuit of science as part of its platform.

Of course, none of this will be easy.  The Sarah Palin, anti-intellectual, almost proto-fascist wing of the party is worryingly strong, and if the recent vote on the stimulus package is any indication, Republicans are more than willing to take a hard right, categorically oppositional stance.  After all, it satisfies the base.  And as long as it does, Steele’s job will be incredibly – incredibly – difficult.  Honestly, I kind of feel sorry for the guy.

Here – if you’re interested – is his acceptance speech:

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Jamelle Bouie is a writer for Slate. He has also written for The Daily Beast, The American Prospect and The Nation. His work centers on politics, race, and the intersection of the two. You can find him on Twitter, Flickr, and Instagram as jbouie.

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14 comments to Michael Steele Elected Chairman of the RNC; Black People Now Rule America.

  • lmd

    When is the parade? Inauguration?

  • geo

    eh…i’ve never had much respect for him. the feeling intensified after he ardently defended palin and didnt find the “Barack the Magic Negro” song problematic.

    i understand the historical significance, but it just feels like the RNC is trying to one-up, like they did with introducing the world to Palin.

  • Paula

    OK. Well, game on for them, I guess. It’s remarkable, but more than that maybe political discourse in America can actually be a battle of ideas rather than competing sets of identities.

  • Ron

    No one else wanted that job, of course he got it. His opponents were a bunch of clowns and dry toast types who couldn’t motivated food into a paper bag.

  • That’s right, the game is now on especially if they pull out the card of political disruption.
    I don’t think many Americans are open to the idea of conservatives attempting pit each of us against one another. We allowed this to happen during the Bush years, now look where it’s left us? We are not going to stand by while he’s used as their politically incorrect pawn to attack the Obama administration. Any attempt by the republican party to stall the restoration and renewal of America will be met with harsh public discord.

  • Nice post. The Republicans are playing the race card. Steele is the RNC’s magic negro. And they think he’s going to magically attract blacks and minorities to the party? I wish them luck with that!

  • The RNC is shortsighted. During the 08 campaign, they got Palin to counter Clinton. Now that Obama has won, they are agin trying to play identity politics by getting Steele.

    As a Marylander, specifically a Baltimorean I am not crazy about Steele as many other Black Baltimoreans. This guy went to Douglass High, which I think this site made a post about on the HBO documentary about the school, but this dude goes out of his way to act like he’s not from Bmore…and from the hood at that. It is crazy that GOP who has no urban agenda just choose a man from West Baltimore who will continue the party’s lack of a national agenda.

    On top of all that, Steele is arrogant. He has won nothing. Ive seen this dude get destroyed in debates in interviews multiple times. Strangely enough, he kind of plays the black card in a wierd way. He bemoans that black people need to get over racism but whenever he gets in front of a black audience, he turns into soul brotha #1 and act like he’s done with us but then gets in front of the GOP and plays the company line. That “drill, baby, drill!” line at the RNC convention made me sick. Go back to West Baltimore and save your hood, man. Shit…The Wire was about his got damn neighborhood!.

  • Major woops on my my part. I was working on some bad info. He did not attend Douglass High, he was in Baltimore when he went to Johns Hopkins.

    Yesterday’s Baltimore Sun did cover his “Broken Promise to Douglass High” when he visited the school.

    http://weblogs.baltimoresun.com/news/education/blog/2009/02/michael_steeles_broken_promise.html

  • ladyfresshh

    meh
    i’m not too sure they are trying anything

    they had/have thomas/rice and powell

    and black people were not moved though powell gets a good amount of respect

    i’d like to say that we really do vote policy/issues first

    and again i say republicans get very little credit for rice and powell…thomas even
    they were the first republicans they maybe, they still count and i think paved the way

  • Simba

    What I’m worried about is that the Republicans are going to start purporting that racism is over because they elected a black RNC Chairman. I see conservativism, a fundamental part of the Republican party, as morally wrong, for reasons such as implicit and explicit racism, sexism and homophobia. If self-identifying conservatives throughout the country start to believe that their ideaology isn’t harmful to minorities and isn’t institutionally racist because Steele’s the RNC Chairman now, they’ll be that much less likely to see their ideaology for the terrible thing it is, and only entreanch further into it. And I say this all as a former die-hard conservative; if I hadn’t seen Rightist racism, I might not have pulled myself out of it. What if I were born a few years later, was still conservative today and took Steele as proof that conservativism isn’t racist? It’s worrysome.

  • Simba: i don’t know if you’ve been paying attention, but conservatives have long argued that their ideology isn’t harmful to minorities. steele’s election isn’t gonna usher in a change in Republican thinking; it’ll reaffirm what they already believe.

  • Chris

    I’m thrilled to have a Black American leading the RNC and Black Americans representing in all areas of government. For conservatives I see it as a progression of Gen. Powell, Condaleeza Rice, and other conservative Blacks. We all have our own set of values and I’m just really glad that the Republicans put Steele at the head of the line for possibly the next presidential race. Obama vs. Steele: Black America can’t lose and whites should be proud to have elevated men on their merit. I didn’t vote for Obama but I’m am proud to call him my commander in chief with zero reservations.

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